I hear from so many people who are nervous or scared to make a career change in their 50s—even if they’re miserable at their current job. And folks, I get it. There are a lot of fears and insecurities that can creep up when you’re thinking about making a huge change later in life. But don’t let that stop you from doing what you were created to do! Here are some things that will help you decide if and how you should make the switch.
Should You Start a New Career at 50?
Of course, a midlife career change shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Take some time to think about whether this move makes sense for you and if you’re truly in a good place financially, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to make this kind of transition.
But don’t sell yourself short—you’re capable of a lot more than you might realize. I’m personally a firm believer in the idea that it’s never too late to make a change, and it’s never too late to get a job you love. Use the ol’ pro-con list to help you think through your choice.
Pros of Changing Careers at 50
- You’ll get a fresh start. If you’re stuck in a job you hate, or if you’ve been doing the same thing for years and you’re just plain burned out, this could be a great time for you to start something new. It can be really exciting and refreshing to have a clean slate.
- You’ll be happier (and healthier). Let’s be real: Your job has a huge impact on your well-being. If you have a case of the Sunday Scaries every week and dread going to work on Monday, it will definitely take a toll on you. On the flip side, when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you’ll experience true joy (and possibly some other health benefits like lower blood pressure and decreased stress)!
- Sooner is better than later. Sure, you might feel like it’s late in the game to change careers—but in the grand scheme of things, you still have plenty of time to make a valuable impact. And it’ll be a lot easier to do it now than it would be later on!
- You have experience to bring to the table. One of the huge benefits of being in your 50s is the amount of work experience (and life experience) you’ve built up over the years—which most companies should think of as an asset.
Cons of Changing Careers at 50
- You might have to take a pay cut. Now, this isn’t a for-sure thing, but it is a possibility. It all depends on what your career transition looks like. Look at the salary ranges for the position you want on a site like Glassdoor and make sure it’s feasible for you.
- You might need more education or training. Again, it all depends on what field you’re going into and whether you meet all the criteria or not. Research the education requirements of the job you want and know that you might need to invest some time and money into getting the right certifications. (This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Taking classes again could be fun!)
- People may doubt your competence. With all the crazy advancements in technology these days, some people assume that anyone over 35 just won’t be able to keep up. As someone who’s still learning the tech ropes myself, I can tell you that even if there are some new things to learn, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do your job well.
- People may think you’re overqualified. You might also experience the opposite problem. People may assume you wouldn’t enjoy a particular job or you’d be bored because you have too much experience. And that’s just silly. Even if you’re applying for a job that you’re technically overqualified for, emphasize how excited you are about the opportunity and all the great things you hope to bring to the table and you shouldn’t have an issue.
How to Make a Career Change at 50
Okay, so let’s say you’ve weighed the pros and cons, done the research, and decided that a career change at 50 really is the right move for you. You’ve got this! Now, it’s time for some action steps. Here are some tips for making the transition as smooth as possible:
1. Get some support.
For big life changes like this, it’s really important to have a support system. Whether it’s your family, friends, church group or any group of trusted people who play a significant role in your life, let them know your plans for changing jobs and keep them updated with your progress. Not only will they provide accountability, but they’ll be your much-needed cheerleaders and voices of truth and reason if you start to doubt yourself.
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Your support system can also be a sounding board for all of your new career ideas. And they might even be able to proofread your cover letter or help you practice for your interview.
2. Think through all your options.
It’s easy to get hung up on one particular job—or job title—you want and overlook other options that you might enjoy just as much.
A lovely middle-aged woman called into my show recently who was finally at a place in life where she could pursue a new career as a park ranger. Unfortunately, she discovered that there’s an age cap when it comes to entering that field. After some more digging, though, we got to the root of her desire to become a ranger: She had a passion for taking care of the environment and helping people. I suggested she look for a job in wildlife preservation, parks and rec, or government—it would be a great fit for her, without the age restrictions.
So, if you find yourself getting discouraged that a certain position isn’t panning out for you, break down why you want to do the job and what other kinds of jobs share similarities. (And feel free to call in to The Ken Coleman Show if you need some extra help!)
3. Use your relationships.
When it comes to getting where you want to be, relationships are everything. But instead of stale, superficial networking, network the right way by using your web of genuine connections. At this point, you probably know a lot more people than you think—don’t be afraid to reach out to them! You never know what opportunities could come up that way.
But even if you don’t have as many connections as you’d like right now, build some by getting to know people who are doing what you want to do. Take them to lunch, talk with them about what they love and don’t love about their job, and who knows? You could wind up with a job lead, or at least get some more clarity on what you do or don’t want to pursue.
4. Update your resumé.
If you haven’t updated your resumé in a few years, now’s the perfect time! You might be overwhelmed at the thought of fitting your work experience into one page, but you don’t have to try to include 30 years’ worth of experience if it’s not relevant. Just focus on the work you’ve done that’s relevant to the job you’re going for. Keep it simple and to the point (and know that there’s no need to mention your age anywhere on your resumé). My free Resumé Guide resource can help you build a solid resumé that will help your application get noticed!
5. Don’t focus on age.
As you get ready to interview for a job, you might be hyper-focused on your age, but the interviewer might not be thinking about that at all! Hopefully, they’re just looking for the best person for the job. If they don’t bring up your age, you don’t need to. Don’t call out that the hiring manager is younger than you or say anything that hints that could come across as either self-conscious or condescending about the amount of experience you have. (“Oh, you graduated from high school in ’99? That’s when I launched my first start-up.”) Just treat it like you would any interview.
If the interviewer does bring up the age thing, you can say something simple and confident like, “I know I’m older, but I’m passionate about the work this company is doing, and I want to be an asset to you.” Be honest about any gaps in employment, own your skills, and don’t stress yourself out. If this job is a good fit for you, it will fall into place.
For more detailed advice on finding the perfect career for you, check out my free Career Clarity Guide!
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